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Digital oil fields impacting process than technology.

COLLABORATION never been easier in an industry which has had a long held reputation for working in silos of activity, often in remote locations across the world. Today, however, real-time operation centres allow an oil company's asset team to work with expert engineers, geoscientists, consultants and other operational support staff to optimise operations.

"Schlumberger's operation support centres (OSCs) were initially implemented to support drilling services and have since expanded to almost all our business segments," explains Steve Scillitani, business manager, production services, at Schlumberger Information Solutions. Schlumberger has over 60 OSCs, which have now become a standard part of operations providing global coverage.

Key enablers are Schlumberger's Intranet (SINet) that was commissioned in 1985, and the InterACT remote data delivery system, which came online in 1999.

The company also provides OSCs for dedicated use by customers, as well as hosted systems, which provide remote support for such services as electric submersible pump (ESP) lift management. Schlumberger also offers production operation centres (POCs), which help operators define and deploy solutions rapidly without interrupting the operating environment.

The introduction of real-time digital operations is still a work in progress. "Oil companies are primarily installing surface measurements and infrastructure such as Scada and associated data to automatically retrieve data.

Companies have also started to revise their production data stores and are looking at not only the production database, but the overall production data management system (PDMS)," says Scillitani. "While at the other end of the process they are implementing collaboration environments, which are mostly being used for production and drilling operations as opposed to total asset management."

No two oil companies are the same and, accordingly, emphasis varies in terms of asset optimisation using digital solutions. "Asset optimisation is normally measured in the currency of improved production," remarks Scillitani. "There are other currencies such as efficiency. However, companies have been focusing increasingly on operational process re-engineering, targeted at arresting production decline, and using surveillance for early identification of potentially under-performing wells."

A key challenge for most companies is accessing reliable, actionable information and efficiently using it in decision processes for production improvement. Collaboration environments (such as the OSC) demand and enforce the notion of one set of data and information, often displayed in different ways with varying levels of granularity depending on the targeted user, which are simultaneously shared and visualised by decision makers.

Scillitani emphasises that changing peoples' behaviour in terms of how they work and solve problems is a challenge that should not be underestimated. "While under many circumstances a command centre facilitates collaboration among people with diverse expertise and experience, we have noticed that decision quality and speed normally improve if the collaboration is also supported remotely wherever one is based -- at work, home or in a hotel -- in addition to formal collaboration centres."

Furthermore, operators are constantly under pressure to improve performance with a higher mixture of inexperienced engineers in more remote environments. "Collaboration centres automate routine tasks with advanced IT and enable the most experienced and skilled engineers to share advice and coaching across many assets. This is a growing necessity," he says.

The ultimate objective of digital oil field development is to facilitate end-to-end network management. This is a big vision which requires a clearly defined strategy as well as intricate technological and process infrastructure. Scillitani maintains:

"Network communications technology is readily available in many forms at different price levels. It is not a barrier to implementing a digital oil field or intelligent operations. The main issue is system integration and choosing the right technology, taking into account local regulations and security requirements. The "first mile" of connectivity from the well site to the communications networks has traditionally been the weak link. Digital oil field systems force the expansion of the corporate local area network (LAN) outward to the field environment and network security management becomes a concern."

Some of the earliest wins in terms of digital oil field development have come from reduction of non-productive time (NPT). Scillitani explains: "There have been numerous examples of NPT improvements in drilling operations.' For example, in North Sea operations Schlumberger has seen an average of 35 hours saved per rig.

There are individual cases where weeks have been saved on remote well drilling due to real-time remote support and the easy availability of global experts. In production operations, Schlumberger has seen a production increase through optimisation of 15 per cent, and a further 1 per cent production increase due to efficiency improvement.

A Schlumberger industry survey shows expected production gains in the order of between 6 per cent and 7 per cent, and time savings of about six to seven hours per employee per day.

Communication systems are also being optimised for digital oil field operations. "We see fibre-optic in offshore application and adoption of wireless in onshore application, including cell phone technology in some cases. Often local communications regulations dictate the system and frequencies. Wireless sensors are being incorporated on the surface and are starting to become an integral part of the communication system," says Scillitani. Schlumberger is partnering with innovative companies such as vMonitor in this area.

Scillitani believes that digital oil field developments facilitate faster decision making, particularly using intelligent surveillance for early detection of potential production problems. "The use of automated, model-driven workflows is increasingly allowing oil companies to make better informed decisions.

When coupled with smart, shared visualisation in a collaborative environment, stakeholders focus on decisions rather than on data retrieval or even analysis. Such systems in an interactive POC environment are now being adopted in most regions," he says.

Schlumberger emphasises Avocet production software as a key technology to enable a digital oil field environment. Solutions cover the broad landscape of production, including integrated asset modelling, intelligent surveillance and production operations management. Open frameworks for application and data integration are also critical, using the company's Ocean application development framework.

Where next on the digital oil field roadmap? "We recommend that operators focus on implementing data management and basic surveillance as a foundation that generates quick wins. We expect to see digital oil field solutions/systems accelerate over the next five years and take advantage of workflow automation and model driven workflows to improve operational decision making," comments Scillitani.

And what are the key lessons learnt so far? "Initially, the focus should have been more on improving processes rather than implementing technology. IT is an important enabler, but the focus should be on asset management and optimisation," says Scillitani. He suggests: "Companies should have a large vision of digital oil field implementation, but start in smaller steps with pilot projects, using a "think big but act small" philosophy until the benefits and value are well understood."


Meanwhile, the foundation of Halliburton's Digital Asset approach is to model, measure and optimise. The 'model' step is focused on creating a dynamic, integrated model of the job, field, asset, etc. 'Measure' is focused on capturing and using real-time information to refine models. And 'optimise' is targeted at leveraging what has been learned to mitigate risks and improve accuracy to the benefit of the next well, or campaign.

Success lies in continuous optimisation. Duncan Junor, director of the Digital Asset at Halliburton admits: "We were very cautious in the early stages to not boil the ocean. Every customer has slightly different needs and we chose to solve the issues that were most prevalent and that we could influence with our technology."

Consequently, Halliburton is currently focused on three main workflows -- geosteering, drilling and stimulation. Firstly, for drilling, the company is focusing on automating workflows that help remove the need for human intervention and enable management by exception to not only save time, but to allow existing expertise to be leveraged much better."This means optimising drilling performance as a single standard integrated system for many parameters, including mud weights, weight on the bit, geomechanics and pore pressures, among others, to minimise non-productive time and cost," explains Junor.

Secondly, Halliburton is developing data mining and analytics tools which will make use of all the information and allow predictive dashboards that can help decision making. For example, Geosteering for the Digital Asset will bring real-time data for optimising wellbore placement rapidly into the interpretation environment that oil companies use.

Thirdly, a new Digital Asset workflow approach was released at the recent SPE show -- Stimulation for the Digital Asset, which enables geological and geophysical (G&G) teams to monitor exactly where fractures occur within a reservoir. "The real-time process takes seconds or minutes to transfer information to the customer's decision process, compared to months or years by the traditional G&G approach,"remarks Junor. Stimulation for the Digital Asset workflow aims to reduce uncertainty, increase the stimulated reservoir volume and hence production, and optimise the current frac stage, the well and the entire field.

Pinnacle, a leader in microseismic fracture monitoring, was acquired by Halliburton one year ago. The combination of Pinnacle's tiltmeter and microseismic technology has been brought into the customers' visualisation environment. "Real-time visualisation is accessible at the desktop or ultimately on a customer's iPhone or other device, so they can make decisions wherever they are located," says Junor.

Increasingly, people are moving off the well site and have control centres where multi-discipline teams can monitor and control logging and other jobs from remote locations. The next generation of tools will automate common threads for some of these processes to reduce the need for human intervention.

Digital Asset technology and processes will be introduced to automate and identify trends. Once these trends can be identified with 95 per cent to 98 per cent probability, then the weight or torque on bit, for example, can be adjusted automatically.

Work is also underway on multidiscipline analytics, with the benefit of better data management and collaboration tools. Admittedly, there is still danger of information overload. "The volume of information is going to increase and there simply aren't enough people to take that information as it currently exists, interpret it and make decisions as quickly as needed," says Junor.

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Publication:Oil & Gas News
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Feb 22, 2010
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